Deeside’s Robbie Simpson won the Lairig Ghru mountain marathon but has vowed to return to have another crack at breaking the course record.
The Great Britain international completed the 26-mile race between Braemar and Aviemore in 3hr 3min 24sec.
It’s the third-quickest time in the 44-year history of the iconic race, bettered only by Murray Strain’s record of 2:58:10 from 2017 and Johnny Crickmore’s 2:02:41 last year
Simpson was, however, left to reflect on what might have happened if he hadn’t taken a wrong path less than three miles into the race.
He said: “I don’t think I’d have got the record anyway. I probably lost about four minutes because of the detour, so it would have been close. But I have unfinished business here and I’ll do it again at some point.”
Simpson was pleased to get a race under his belt after a six-month hiatus because of the coronavirus lockdown which decimated the sporting fixture list.
The event went ahead with a smaller than usual number of competitors who were set off at regular intervals to comply with physical distancing guidelines.Simpson was one of the back markers.
He said: “Some had started three hours before me but I found it helpful as I was able to target the people ahead of me and tried to pick off as many as I could. It also helped me pick out the right lines to follow on the route.”
Jason Kelly almost pulled off a shock victory. The Metro Aberdeen man found himself in pole position beyond the halfway point but was eventually hunted down by the eventual winner.
Kelly was, however, rewarded with a superb time of 3:07:03, a big improvement on the 3L14:54 he recorded in the 2019 race. It would have been good enough to have won 16 of the past 20 races.
Deeside’s Joe Wright, 19, showed his potential with an impressive performance to take fourth position in 3:17:17. It’s the first time he has competed over this distance.
Ross County’s Eoin Coull won a competitive age 40-49 competition, recording 3:33:59, while Deeside’s Don Kerridge retained his 50-59 title in 3:52:17.
Stephen Golder was first over-60 in 5:13:16 while there was an over-70 finisher for the first time since 2009 – Iain Thomson, of Strathearn Harriers, completing the challenging route in an age group record of 5:38:21.
Dunblane-based Hungarian Fanni Gyurko led home a classy line-up in the women’s race. The Central AC club member clocked 3:34:24, a time bettered by only seven men in a field of 134 runners.
She was less than two minutes outside the course record set by Aberdonian Lucy Colquhoun in 2006 and her time is the second quickest in the race history.
There were some fine performances in the battle for the other podium positions with Lakeland’s Hollie Orr taking second spot in 3:44:57, two secs ahead of Kingussie’s Georgia Tindley. It’s the first time that three women have completed the course in under 3:45.
Deeside’s Ros Baxter took the women’s age 40-49 prize while her clubmate Jane Oliver ran 5:38:45 for the over-60s award.
Henderson takes on race director role a year early
Katie Henderson planned to take over the role of Lairig Ghru race director in 2021, but has been propelled into the hotseat 12 months early.
Andy Bain was due to step down after this year’s race but had to self-isolate after returning from a trip to Switzerland.
To complicate matters, the race, one of the first long-distance events held in Scotland since the easing of lockdown restrictions, had to adopt a much different format from usual.
It went ahead with a smaller than usual number of competitors who were set off at regular intervals to comply with physical distancing guidelines.
Henderson coped admirably and was quick to acknowledge the massive role her predecessor played in ensuring the race was a success.
She said: “This was to have been Andy’s final Lairig as race director. Due to the ever changing Covid situation, he was unable to be there, but much of the work behind the scenes is thanks to him and without him the race would not have taken place.
“I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone who made the race work in very different circumstances to normal.
“The smoothness of the registration and start arrangements was a great testimony to everyone. Special thanks to all the Deeside Runners volunteers at both ends and, of course, to Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team for the checkpoint at the Pools of Dee.
“The communities of Braemar and Aviemore were very welcoming and encouraging to allow the race to take place.”